Why should a New Covenant saint care about the Abrahamic Covenant much less study it? What is the relevance of it? According to Paul, the Abrahamic Covenant forms the foundation for the New Covenant. (See his discussion of it in Romans 4.) Moreover, the apostle of Yeshua elsewhere declares that when one comes to Yeshua in faith, he becomes a part of the covenants (plural) of Israel and a member of the nation of Israel (Eph 2:12), becomes a literal child of Abraham (Gal 3:29), and becomes, by definition, the Israel of Elohim (Gal 6:16; Rom 4:16). He is no longer a Gentile without Elohim and without hope (Eph 2:11). He is now grafted into the olive tree of Israel whose roots go back to Abraham (Rom 11:17–24).
Again, notice Eph 2:12 where Paul mentions covenants (plural). The New Covenant is only one covenant. Which other covenants does Paul have in view here that are relevant to the saint? It should hopefully now be obvious that he is referring to the Abrahamic Covenant. This is why we need to study it.
The Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants Are Subsections of the Torah Covenant (or the Old Covenant)
The Torah, the first five books of the Bible, is the chronicle of YHVH giving man instructions to follow, and of his entering into covenantal relationships with men and men either keeping those agreements or breaking them.
The word Torah means “instructions, teaching or precepts; specifically in biblical context: the teachings or instructions of YHVH to lead men into a righteous relationship with him through covenantal agreement.” The Torah is a giant b’rit or covenant. The Torah in a number of places even refers to itself by the Hebrew word b’rit or covenant. We see this in the following passages:
Exodus 34:27, And YHVH said unto Moses, Write you these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
Deuteronomy 29:1, These are the words of the covenant, which YHVH commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.
The Torah is not unlike an instruction manual that one might receive from the manufacturer of an automobile, computer or some such device to help the buyer to operate his new purchase in a manner that allows him to receive years of trouble-free service. The Torah is YHVH’s instruction manual to help man to live in a way that brings life and blessing; it helps man to enter into a loving relationship with his Creator and to have a trouble-free relationship with his fellow man.
Within the first five books of the Torah-covenant are several smaller covenantal subdivisions such as the Abrahamic and the Sinaitic or Mosaic Covenants. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) describes this as follows, “Deuteronomy 29:13–14 shows the Sinaitic Covenant was an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant…. The Sinai renewal merely stressed man’s responsibility where the Abrahamic Covenant emphasized Elohim’s promise… The Priestly Covenant of Num 25:12–13, the Davidic Covenant of 2 Sam 7 and the New Covenant of Jer 31:31 are all administrative aspects of the same covenant, Elohim’s Covenant of grace. This covenant reaches its climax at the Incarnation where [Messiah] representing his people fulfilled all the stipulations of the covenant and bore the curse they deserved for breaking it” (p. 129).
The Torah is a covenant with various “administrative aspects” or subdivisions. Each succeeding covenant builds upon the previous covenant without cancelling out the requirements or provisions of the previous covenant. Such is consistent with the character and nature of YHVH Elohim. He is not a man that he should lie (Num 23:19). When he gives his word, he keeps it, even up to 1000 generations (that is 40-50,000 years; see Ps 105:6–11). He declares that he does not change (Mal 3:6), and that he is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). He is not a respecter of persons who makes a covenant with one people-group (e.g. the Jews) and another covenant with another people-group (e.g. the Gentiles) each with its own contradictory set of requirements and standards of righteousness (Acts 10:34). In YHVH’s spiritual economy, there is one law, one set of standards, one covenant for both the Israelite and the Gentile (Exod 12:49; Num 15:16; Eph. 2:11–16). Again, his laws and covenants are a reflection of his divine nature and character. He cannot oppose himself. He is not double-minded like man. He is double-minded in that he’s like a well that spouts forth both salty and fresh water (Jas 1:8 cp. 3:112–12). YHVH is perfect, righteous and immutable.
YHVH Relates to Humans Through Covenantal Agreements
YHVH Elohim, the Creator of the universe, is a Being of law and order. He runs his entire universe through laws. There are laws of chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics, to name a few, that govern his physical creation. Scientists recognize this. Likewise there are cause-and effect-laws that govern all areas of human relationships. If you treat others a certain way they will treat you in a similar manner. One reaps what one sows.
Similarly YHVH has put into motion laws that govern his spiritual creation even as the laws of science govern his physical creation. These spiritual laws are a reflection of his very nature and character. For example, YHVH is righteous, so he expects men to be righteous. He has given men laws (instructions or teachings) to help show men how to be righteous as he is righteous. He keeps his word and never lies. He expects the same of men. That is why there is a commandment that says, “You shall not lie.” There are nine more such basic commandments or laws, which the Torah then expands into more than 600 other laws. The Testimony of Yeshua (or New Testament) lists 1050 such commandments (Dake’s Annotated Study Bible) that define for the saints the walk of righteousness.
Throughout all of the Scriptures YHVH has chosen to relate to humans through a structure of law and order, since he is not an Elohim of disorder or confusion. His kingdom is just and orderly at all levels. This structural framework is known as covenantal agreement. Likewise, on the human plain all transactions people make between each other are based on contractual agreements, verbal or written: marriage vows, land and house purchase agreements, warranties, guaranties, sales agreements, service contracts, union contracts, employee and employer contracts, rental and lease agreements, etc.
It is no different with YHVH. In the Scriptures, we see him making covenantal agreements with humans. There is the Noatic Covenant, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic or Sinaitic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant to name a few of the main agreements YHVH has formulated with humans over the millennia.
What is behind YHVH’s covenant-making method of operation?
It Is All About Reconciliation
Let us answer this question by asking another question. If you had to sum up the entire message of the Bible in one word what would it be? Probably words such as love, hope, salvation, eternal life or heaven are coming to your mind. But I challenge you to find a better word than the following: r-e-c-o-n-c-i-l-i-a-t-i-o-n —the reconciliation of YHVH’s people back into a covenantal love (marital) relational agreement (Hebrew: ketubah) with him.
The dictionary defines reconciliation as “to restore to friendship or harmony, to settle or resolve a quarrel, to make consistent or congruous.” When man chose to rebel against YHVH and to give in to sin at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, he chose the path of separation from his Heavenly Father. Sin causes man to be separated from a totally set-apart (holy/kadosh), righteous and sinless Creator. Since that time YHVH has been endeavoring to reconcile man to himself. He has laid out criteria for man to follow for this to occur—for man to once again have a friendly, loving and intimate relationship with his Heavenly Father as did Adam before he sinned.
Let’s further define the word reconciliation in biblical terms. The following is paraphrased from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (p. 903): Biblically, it is the process by which Elohim and man are brought together again. Elohim and man were alienated from one another because of YHVH’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. Though YHVH loves the sinner (John 3:16; Rom 5:8), it is impossible for him not to judge sin (Heb 10:27). Therefore in biblical reconciliation, both parties are affected. Through the sacrifice of Messiah, man’s sin is atoned and YHVH’s wrath is appeased. Thus a relationship of hostility and alienation is changed into one of peace and fellowship. Man is reconciled to YHVH through the person and work of Yeshua the Messiah (2 Cor 5:18). Paul regarded the gospel as the “word of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). And knowing the terror of YHVH’s judgment Paul pleaded, implored, and persuaded men: “Be reconciled to YHVH” (2 Cor 5:20).
The Term Covenant Defined
What do we mean by the term covenant in a biblical sense of the word? The Hebrew word for covenant is the word b’rit (Strong’s H1285) which is “an agreement (which binds two parties together), league, alliance, pledge, constitution.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) defines the Hebrew word b’rit as: “between nations: a treaty, alliance of friendship; between individuals: a pledge or agreement; with obligation between a monarch and subjects: a constitution; between Elohim and man: a covenant accompanied by signs, sacrifices, and a solemn oath that sealed the relationship with promises of blessing for keeping the covenant and curses for breaking it” (vol. 1, p. 128). “Apart from blood ties the covenant was the way people of the ancient world formed wider relationships with each other” (Ibid. p. 129).
YHVH is not a dictator. He has never tried to cram his laws and covenants down man’s throat. He allows man the freedom to choose to enter into covenantal relationship with him or not; for man to be reconciled to him into a loving relationship or not. He asks men to choose whom they will follow:
Deuteronomy 30:19, I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
Joshua 24:15, And if it seem evil unto you to serve YHVH, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve YHVH.
It is up to man to choose whom he will serve, whose laws he will follow. And man will live with the consequences of his choice: life or death.
Margaret Barker describes the biblical concept of covenant in this manner,
They imagined the everlasting covenant as a system of bonds to keep the whole creation together in one system, and bind it to the Creator, the source of its life. Sin, by definition, was anything that broke a covenant bond, and the word translated ‘iniquity’ means, literally, distortion. If too many bonds were broken or distorted, the whole system would collapse. This is the origin of those terrifying pictures in the Apocalypse: stars falling, mountains moving, the sky rolled up like a scroll (Rev 6:12–4). Human sin could destroy the creation.
A Closer Look At The Abrahamic Covenant
Let us now take a closer look at the Abrahamic Covenant, which, as we have already noted, is a subdivision of the Torah Covenant itself and forms the basis for the Renewed Covenant revealed in the Testimony of Yeshua. What are the unique aspects and provisions of this covenant?
In the Abrahamic Covenant, YHVH made promises to Abraham and all that YHVH expected of Abraham was faith. How do we know this? First we see that YHVH called Abraham to leave the comfort and wealth of Babylon (Ur of the Chaldees) and by faith to go to Canaan (Gen. 12:1). There YHVH made many promises to Abraham about his progeny concerning their wealth, their numbers and their land inheritance. Abraham, though he personally never saw most of these promises fulfilled, nevertheless believed in YHVH and it was counted to him for righteousness’ sake (Gen. 15:6, Hebrews 11:6–19).
Next we see the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant in how YHVH executed it with Abraham. In all agreements, there are at least two parties who determine the conditions of the agreement and then sign papers or shake hands. Each does something or brings something to the table. It was no different when two ancient near-Eastern parties would make an agreement or covenant. They would go through an elaborate bloody ritual to underscore the seriousness of the blood oath into which they were about to enter. In his book, The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread, Richard Booker describes a nine-step process that was lengthy and involved, like a Hebraic wedding ceremony, where each party was required to perform a number of rituals. One of the steps involved “cutting the covenant.” Booker explains that in this step the parties would take an animal, cut it in half down the middle and split it in two. The two bloody halves would be separated and laid aside after which each party would walk through the two halves. This ceremony represents each party giving up his rights to his own life, dying to self and beginning a new walk with one’s new covenant partner unto death. Each half of the animal represents one of the covenanting parties. And by walking through the middle each party was saying, “Elohim do so to me and more if I ever try to break this covenant. Just split me right down the middle and feed me to the vultures because I tried to break the most sacred of all compacts” (pp. 28–29).
Did YHVH and Abraham go through such a solemn, bloody ritual? Yes. We read about it in Genesis 15:9-18, but with one very interesting change. Instead of both walking through the two animal halves, YHVH put Abraham into a deep sleep and YHVH walked through the middle for both of them. What is the point? Abraham could not enter into a covenantal agreement with YHVH Elohim and thereby be reconciled to YHVH through his own works or efforts. What this clearly shows us is that man can neither earn nor work out his salvation. Salvation occurs only when man totally surrenders to and rests completely in YHVH. Salvation is by grace through faith and not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8–9). The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant. YHVH did all the work for man. His love was unconditional. All man has to do was to believe or have faith in YHVH.
As proof of what I am saying about the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant, let us review the promises YHVH made to the patriarchs in the book of Genesis pertaining to the Abrahamic Covenant. Can you find any place where YHVH stipulates that he will bless the patriarchs IF they will obey his Torah-commands?
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. (Gen 12:2)
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Gen 12:3)
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high Elohim, possessor of heaven and earth. (Gen 14:19)
And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. (Gen. 17:16)
Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (Gen 18:18)
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. (Gen 22:17)
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Gen 22:18)
And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and YHVH had blessed Abraham in all things. (Gen 24:1)
And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that Elohim blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi. (Gen 25:11 )
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father (Gen 26:3)
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Gen 26:4)
Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and YHVH blessed him. (Gen 26:12)
And YHVH appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the Elohim of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake. (Gen 26:24)
Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. (Gen 27:29)
And Elohim Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people. (Gen 28:3)
And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which Elohim gave unto Abraham. (Gen 28:4)
And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Gen 28:14)
For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and YHVH hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also? (Gen 30:30)
Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because Elohim hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it. (Gen 33:11)
And Elohim appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. (Gen 35:9)
And Jacob said unto Joseph, Elohim Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me. (Gen 48:3)
And he blessed Joseph, and said, Elohim, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the Elohim which fed me all my life long unto this day. (Gen 48:15)
The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. (Gen 48:16)
And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, Elohim make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. (Gen 48:20)
Even by the Elohim of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb. (Gen 49:25)
The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren. (Gen 49:26)
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them. (Gen 49:28)
With these things in mind let us review the key provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant. They are…
- YHVH will make of Abraham a great nation (Gen 12:2).
- YHVH will bless Abraham (Gen 12:2).
- YHVH will make Abraham’s name great (Gen 12:2).
- YHVH will make Abraham a blessing to others (Gen 12:2; Gal. 3:14).
- YHVH will bless the ones who bless Abraham (Gen 12:3).
- YHVH will curse those who curse Abraham (Gen 12:3).
- YHVH will cause all families of the earth to be blessed through Abraham and his seed (the Messiah) (Gen 12:2; Gal. 3:16).
- Abraham and his descendants to receive a land grant (Gen 12:7; 15:7,18; 17:8).
- Abraham’s seed to be multitudinous, as numerous as the stars (Gen 15:5; 17:2,6).
- YHVH promises to be Abraham’s shield and exceedingly great reward (Gen 15:1).
- Nations will come from Abraham (Gen 17:4,6).
- YHVH’s covenant with Abraham will be an everlasting covenant (Gen 17:7, 8, 19).
- YHVH promises to be their Elohim (Gen 17:8).
The Conditional Promises of the Mosaic or Sinaitic Covenant
Now let us take a look at the promises YHVH made to the Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant. Notice the conditional nature of this covenant: YHVH tells the Israelites repeatedly that if they obey him he will bless them, but if they disobey him curses will come upon them. Take note of this in the passages cited below:
Know therefore that YHVH thy Elohim, he is Elohim, the faithful Elohim, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. (Deut 7:9–10)
Beware that thou forget not YHVH thy Elohim, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day. Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget YHVH thy Elohim, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage…. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget YHVH thy Elohim, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which YHVH destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of YHVH your Elohim. (Deut 8:11–14, 19–20)
Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of YHVH your Elohim, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of YHVH your Elohim, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. (Deut 11:26–28)
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of YHVH thy Elohim, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that YHVH thy Elohim will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of YHVH thy Elohim … But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of YHVH thy Elohim, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. (Deut 28:1–2,15)
And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither YHVH thy Elohim hath driven thee. (Deut 30:1)
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love YHVH thy Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and YHVH thy Elohim shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. (Deut 30:15–19)
(See also Deut 4:1–40; 6:1–25; 8:1–20; 27:1–26; 28:1–68; 30:1–20.)
The Covenants of YHVH Are Perpetual and Everlasting
As we have already noted YHVH’s Covenants are perpetual, eternal and everlasting. Let’s review several of many scriptures that could be cited which attest to this fact.
The Abrahamic Covenant is an everlasting covenant to Abraham and to his seed after him. (Gen 17:7)
The land of Canaan is an everlasting possession to the descendants of Abraham. This is an everlasting covenant with Isaac and to his seed after him. (Gen 17:8, 19)
Abrahamic Covenant was to last for one thousand generations; forever, it is an everlasting covenant. (Ps 105:6-11)
Torah was given to Israel forever. (Deut 4:40; see also 5:29; 12:28; 19:9)
Summary and Conclusion
The purpose of the Abrahamic Covenant was to bring people (Israelites and non-Israelites) into a redemptive relationship with the Elohim (God) of Israel. The Scriptures identify a person coming into such a relationship with Elohim as an Israelite and refers to them as the seed and children of Abraham (Rom 4:16; 9:8–11; Gal 3:7, 9, 14, 28–29; Eph 2:11–19).
It is through the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant in the Tanakh (OT) and the New Covenant in the Testimony of Yeshua that one receives redemption or salvation from the penalty of sin, which is death, and that one is granted righteous standing before the righteous Elohim of Israel and given eternal life. This salvation is granted on the basis of the faith of the Believer in Elohim and the grace of YHVH (Rom 4:3).
By contrast, salvation does not occur through the works of the Mosaic/Sinaitic Covenant whose purpose was not to show people the way of salvation, but rather, after having been saved through the Abrahamic Covenant how to “stay saved” (if you will) or to stay in right relationship with Elohim by walking in the paths of righteousness (i.e. the Torah), the result of which is physical and eternal rewards. The two covenants do not conflict with each other, but rather they form a complimentary or synergistic unit providing the framework to raise up faith-filled, faithful, and righteous children of YHVH. Together, the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants form what might be called The Torah Covenant. The Torah Covenant forms the basis for the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31–33) and realized during the time of the apostles and revealed in their writings. It is the combination of these covenants that Paul makes reference to in Ephesians 2:12 when he speaks of Gentiles being in the past aliens from citizenship in the nation of Israel and strangers from the covenants (plural) of promise, having no hope, and without Elohim in the world.
When one comes into a relationship with the Elohim of Israel through both the Abrahamic and Sinaitic (Mosaic) Covenants, two things happen. As already noted, the Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that one becomes a child of Abraham and becomes an Israelite. But more importantly, at the same time, one becomes adopted into the spiritual family of YHVH Elohim (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5) resulting in eternal life.